The last time I bought anything was six days ago. I don’t mean a bottle of Advil or a head of lettuce or a 24-pack of toilet paper. I mean clothing and fashion accessories, like earrings and scarves. And shoes.
I wish I’d counted the number of shoes I owned before the first purge began about an hour after a visit to a podiatrist in late September. What remains are 11 pairs of shoes and boots. Flip flops were not included in the count.
It’s embarrassing. I only have two feet yet I need a separate insurance rider to cover the replacement cost of my shoes. If my house went up in flames tomorrow, however, I’d buy different kinds of shoes. The foot doctor gave me a couple of brand names to look for and on average they cost $175 a pair. And they’re ugly as sin. Dear lord, I wouldn’t bury a corpse in those shoes. But since most of my other shoes were thrift store finds, their total value wouldn’t cover the cost to buy the podiatry recommended brands.
I’d brought a representative sampling of my footwear to the appointment and she deadpanned, “You have a problem with shoes.”
“I know that,” I said, though not in the sense she meant.
“You need rounded toes and double E width.” Eek. That’s a lot of wiggle room, I thought.
“These things,” she said, holding up my favourite bone coloured, patent leather sling-backs with a modest heal height and a gently pointed toe, “are torture devices. They’re pinching the nerve at the base of your second toe.”
Elaborating in painful detail, she described why that nerve was making my foot feel like I’d walked on glass, even while wearing sensible shoes for my daily constitutional.
Pain, her words, and a distant memory motivated me. At work, I took action immediately, and crawled under my desk tossing every pair of stilettoes into a bag which I dropped at Value Village on the way home. The motivating memory was from 1983, when I worked with a conference planning consultant in her early 50’s. She hobbled everywhere on fashionable shoes, moving slowly and in obvious agony. I asked her if she was okay and she said “Oh, it’s nothing. Just my feet.”
I like shoes, obviously, but I like walking, cross-country skiing, and cycling more. They’re my happy pills. I concluded that I am prepared to give up pretty shoes to keep walking. My feet are more than “Just my feet.”
At home I purged more shoes and now I can see the closet floor. Inspired, I continued the expulsion with my clothes, trying to give everything some wiggle room. I filled another bag for Value Village with things I hadn’t worn in a year or more. I felt good. Daylight penetrated my closet for the first time in decades.
This sartorial shake-up might have been the start of a shift in thinking because the next morning, post-cleanse, I stood in front of my clothes – arranged by colour – and was unable to choose something to wear. “Ridiculous. You have enough here to wear something different to work every day for a month,” I muttered.
Those fucking yin/yang devils on my shoulders began a super-heated debate.
“No she doesn’t. Where’s the cream turtleneck she needs?”
“She has cream blouses. They’ll do just fine.”
“What about tan slacks? She’s been looking for years.”
“She’s got beige. Beige goes with everything.”
I took a sip of tongue burning coffee to distract the miserable creatures and decided to accept my own challenge. I would prove to myself I have plenty and need nothing more.
I delivered the latest bag of cast-offs to the recycler. But, like sending an alcoholic to the liquor store to buy a bottle of wine, I was tempted. “I’ll run in and take a quick look.”
I came out with a capelet, two sweaters and a men’s Harris Tweed blazer. “It’s not my fault!” I blamed the podiatrist. I blamed the shoes. That’s when I realized I had a problem.
“My name is Susanne and I’m a second hand clothes shopaholic.”